Asset Based Community Development reframes how we look at, and interact with, the communities around us. In Church circles we tend to be excellent at coming up with lists of things we cannot do, stumbling blocks we face and resources we don’t have. ABCD teaches us to start from a different place – to explore the gifts, skills, passions and resources which are present in the people and places we inhabit and to collaborate from that place into action. In Priority Areas we have been investing in helping folks make that shift, and the team from Govan & Linthouse are a great example of what can happen as a result.
GILLIAN: I first encountered Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) a long time ago when I went on a Priority Areas course; Helen Pope delivered the training and she blew my mind. This is a concept that makes sense! – but in my opinion, it’s not something that you can do on your own. In most training sessions you arrive, get the training and then go back to normal. With ABCD that didn’t happen. It got under my skin and stayed on the perimeter of my mind. I got the idea of it but just couldn’t figure out how to fit it in.
Time passed and life and work moved on. Then a new wave or training popped up in the Priority Areas newsletter. It had more ABCD training but this time we were asked to bring a team of people. This I could get on board with, so I asked folk I thought who would be good, folk who would turn up and chip in, they said yes, and so we turned up from Govan and Linthouse Parish Church ‘team handed’ and I was delighted to see that we had the most people there!
CATH: Gillian is a bouncy bundle of enthusiasm, when she talked about ABCD I thought, “this could be interesting”. I never thought it would make such a difference to me and I’m so glad I got involved.
GILLIAN: ABCD in a nut shell is about journeying alongside folk, getting to know them, getting to see their worth and encouraging them to see their own worth: then channelling that into something more to allow them to feel, and be, a valued member of their community. It’s about linking people up together to make things happen.
FI: I got involved because Gillian asked me to. Once the training started, I genuinely kept thinking that it really wasn’t for me and that she’d asked the wrong person. She kept telling me to relax and asked me to wait. Then, when Cormac Russel started talking about the ‘connectors’ roll of ABCD the light bulb went on! I knew that was my role in it and training session by training session it all sank in.
GILLIAN: Since then, Fi has started up her own Community Art Group in the church which not only lasted online through the pandemic but is now back in person and grows in numbers each week. This is a free group. We got an initial grant to get the materials she needed, and the church provide the space. It’s a group that is open to all and runs throughout the year. Fi also joined the church and got baptised; now every Sunday she is welcoming people at the door and helping out anywhere she can!
I know that it’s not always going to be as good as that. In fact, the hardest part of ABCD, from a work perspective is that results aren’t easy to measure and it’s hard to justify on an appraisal form – but as Christians we are called to help others and sometimes that’s just being out there and talking.
Since the pandemic it’s been really hard to do community stuff and to have those opportunities. Fi, Catherine and I decided each Tuesday we would pick a different coffee shop in the area and go for a cuppa together. You can’t be in the community unless you are present in the community. So that’s what we do and the growth in all of us has been wonderful. Catherine is very shy but extremely clever and articulate and to see her confidence growing week by week is wonderful to watch.
CATH: I get bright ideas, but don’t know how to connect with folk or bring the ideas to life. I can bounce ideas off Gillian and Fi, and now off others as well, and things actually happen.
GILLIAN: We are all different and it works really well for us. I am exceptionally proud of all we have achieved.